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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

Kelly talks team mindset after Georgia loss, previews Virginia

Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly greeted the media Monday to discuss the upcoming matchup with No. 18 Virginia and lingering topics regarding the team’s recent loss to No. 3 Georgia. Kelly began by addressing the depth at the wide receiver position due to injuries to junior Michael Young and sophomore Braden Lenzy.

“I think we need them all. You know, there’s going to be certain situations where we, you know, need them by play call and situations,” Kelly said. “They all have to be able to help each other during the week in practice, too, so volume is important. We keep them up. We keep them ready. And then there are certain situations in the game that we feel they match up for different times in the game and different play calls.”

Kelly then began addressing the upcoming game against No. 18 Virginia and compared the Cavaliers to the Bulldogs.

“Well, they’re really long and athletic. I think there’s, you know, a 3-4 defense, some similarities there, some carryover there. They’re different in that they run the 3-4 a lot differently,” he said. “So I wouldn’t say that there’s a lot of carryover in terms of personnel, other than [junior outside linebacker Charles] Snowden is long and athletic. He’s kind of like the kid they had a couple of years ago out there — just a really good defense. The best comparison I can give you is 3-4 with really good players similar to Georgia. Another challenge for us.”

Not only would Virginia pose a test for the Irish under ordinary circumstances, the Irish must face them after an emotional letdown from the loss to the Bulldogs. Kelly said he believes that this upcoming game will be a crucial moment for his team this season.

“I think our team will define who they are this week because they’re coming off of a game where they were disappointed in their performance. So, they have a chance to do something about it,” Kelly said. “So this is an opportunity to kind of define who you are.”

Kelly said despite the letdown, the team is still aware of how dangerous the Cavaliers are.

“Virginia has their attention, there’s no doubt about that. So they know they have to pay attention to their detail and play well against a quality opponent,” he said. “There’s no question when you play a team of this caliber, they recognize how important it is to go back to work.”

For the players’ part, according to Kelly, the leaders in the locker room are stepping up to help the team refocus.

“I’ll meet with them around 3 p.m. Our captains have already called a team meeting prior to that to meet with the team,” Kelly said. “My sense and expectation is that they understand the importance of where we go from here after the Georgia game. For them to fulfill the goals and the mission that we have set forth for us, we have to play better football from here on out — so pretty confident that they understand that and what’s needed from them moving forward.”

One thing that could benefit the Irish is they have coaches — specifically defensive coordinator Clark Lea, who managed to gameplan and held Georgia to 23 points. Kelly gave his take on what makes Lea so good.

“I think consistency and approach,” he said. “He doesn’t vary much from what he’s said from day one. He’s not changing the drill work up each day. I think they know what they’re getting every day. He doesn’t throw a curveball at them. He has an expectation for what those players need to do and what they master and what they need to master. Each day they close in on becoming better and better at it. I think that that’s what he’s done a really good job at, regardless if it’s a player with a lot of experience or a little experience. His consistency and his teaching approach have been really one where I think all levels have been able to adapt to it.”

Kelly did discuss the mistakes in the Georgia game, particularly the botched signals that led to multiple false starts and a record high of penalties for any game in his Notre Dame tenure.

“I mean, I’m sick about it. I have been a head coach for 29 years. I know better, to be quite honest with you. We didn’t spend enough time, obviously. I thought I did — I made a terrible miscalculation in that I felt like our quarterback was prepared, but he wasn’t. That falls on me,” Kelly said. “Consequently, we had three critical cadence issues that, who knows where they could have led to. That falls on my shoulders, I have to do a better job. We’ll make sure that never happens again.”

He also addressed the controversy that his players faked injuries to stop the game and prevent Georgia’s offense from gaining a rhythm.

“Well, I don’t know where that really comes from,” Kelly said. "You know, our protocol is if any player has suffered an injury and they’re not feeling right, we want them to go down. We want them to get medical attention. We have a medical spotter that is communicating with our trainers, and we don’t want to risk anybody that’s not feeling right. So I’m proud of our guys that they have made sure that that procedure is followed correctly. We’re not going to fake injuries, we’re a tempo team. We’re going to make sure that protocol is followed based upon what our training staff wants under those conditions.”

For now though, Kelly is shifting his team’s focus to their next opponent as they do their best to hold on to their College Football Playoff hopes.

“I think it defines who you are. I mean, clearly they know what’s at stake for them this weekend, they’re playing a really good football team that’s nationally ranked,” Kelly said. “They feel really good about themselves. They’ll come in expecting to win. They’re going to be challenged, and they’re going to have to respond. You want to find those things out. I have a good feeling that they’re going to respond in the right way. Again, it’s closer to defining who you are after coming back from a loss than it is any time after a win.”